• Karen Rose Kobylka

The Bipolar Battle

Recently, there have been a lot of conversations about mental health topics. Fora have been organized, workshops put together, and maybe hundreds of keynote addresses delivered on the issues surrounding mental health and psychiatric disorders. I am glad that in this time, patients and individuals are encouraged to tell their stories, not to keep shut and to continue to speak their truth.

In the light of prevailing stigma and discomfort concerning several aspects of mental health and mental disorders such as depression, self-harm, manic-depressive disorders, and the likes, awareness, and advocacy are but formal approaches to battling the hostility and misunderstanding surrounding most mental health spaces. However, testimonies may seem informal, but the power of a single story must not be underestimated. Hence, campaigns for "speak your truth" has provided the needed support for mental health patients and stakeholders to form a cohesive, large volume of stories bordering from the somewhat ordinary to the heart wrenching, giving hope, help, and synergy in mental health advocacy.

In this article, I attempt to narrate my journey from diagnosis as a bipolar patient to my relapse year and how I managed to maintain stability. I hope to draw from experiences as a mental health patient turned advocate to inspire other patients battling bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. I hope that my experiences can provide another peek into the life of the mentally ill, so others can understand and possibly provide the needed empathy and support for mental health patients to achieve stability and perhaps thrive.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder approximately two years ago by a psychiatrist. Since then, I have battled the familiar thrills and lulls of this mental illness. At first, it was very strange to me. I would have spells of intense energy, and I would want to do so much, people thought my drive was quite unusual because sometimes I can come off as a bit enthusiastic. Then, other days, I would want to sleep a lot or just lay about brooding. I put on some weight too. After the diagnosis, the psychiatrist placed me on an injection called Abilify (Aripiprazole). With this medication, I had recorded some success and achieved symptom-free months. I was lucky enough to have no side effects and the medication works perfect for me.

Sometime during my unbalanced times, my moods were overly exaggerated, and a few people shut me out and thought I was practically schizophrenic. Thankfully, my medication works for me as well as it does, and the doctor said that I am one of his best stable patients so far. The journey here has been long, and mostly unpleasant. I have decided to tell my story often, hence this article. My goal is to help others to understand that patients with mental illnesses are living, breathing people with emotions and feelings too. Most times, mentally ill patients are not at their best, and associating with them will require a great deal of patience and understanding.

I hope that our communities and the world, in general, will be kinder, more patient, and understanding with the mentally ill. I hope that in time, we will learn to afford the time to genuinely listen to understand and ultimately offer support and help to the bipolar and the depressed. To everyone battling with one mental illness or other, my message is never to stop fighting. Resilience can be sourced from our honesty in feeling and sharing our feelings. Do not shut your mouth; continue to speak your truth.

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